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  • Morning Bell: The Unintended Consequences of Internet Regulation

    Would you be outraged if the Department of Justice shut down The Foundry without any warning and blocked access for more than a year?

    That’s exactly what happened to a hip-hop blog called Dajaz1.com, which was falsely accused of criminal copyright infringement. The blog posted music from artists promoting their work. But federal authorities viewed it differently. They seized the domain name, then shared virtually no information with its owner for more than year. Only recently did they quietly drop the case.

    The government’s handling of this hip-hop blog is fueling fears about legislation moving quickly through Congress that addresses copyright infringement and online piracy.

    The Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA as it’s known in the House, and the Senate’s PROTECT IP Act would give the U.S. attorney general the power and authority to block criminal enterprises from trafficking in illegal products online.

    Their cause is a noble one. Business incur significant losses when Americans buy counterfeit items. Consumers must also be increasingly vigilant about purchases they make online. Federal authorities shut down more than 150 websites just last month for pirated goods.

    But the two bills making their way through Congress are the wrong solution. They pose serious threats to freedom of speech and expression and raise security concerns. With the Senate possibly voting on the PROTECT IP Act in January and the House moving forward with hearings on SOPA, Americans should understand what’s at stake.

    As the case with Dajaz1.com illustrates, the federal government already has the ability to shut down U.S.-based websites. A growing number of so-called “rogue sites” are located outside the United States, however, limiting the government’s ability to block them.

    SOPA would give Attorney General Eric Holder and individual intellectual property holders the ability to sue these rogue sites if they were “dedicated to theft of U.S. property.” The government, through a court order, could take these four steps:

    1. Require Internet service providers to prevent subscribers from reaching the website in question;
    2. Prohibit search engines such as Google from providing direct links to the foreign website in search results;
    3. Prohibit payment network providers, such as PayPal or credit card firms, from completing financial transactions affecting the site; and
    4. Bar Internet advertising firms from placing online ads from or to the affected website.

    “The legislation addresses a legitimate problem,” wrote Heritage’s regulatory policy expert James Gattuso, “but it may have unintended negative consequences for the operation of the Internet and free speech.”

    Free speech: The legislation gives the government the authority to tamper with Internet search results by requiring firms like Google to block links to infringing websites. Placing this limit on information providers is troubling and arguably a violation of the First Amendment. Besides, Washington’s appetite for power is uncontrollable, and this would almost certainly lead to a slippery slope of unwanted interference in the future.

    Internet security: Criminals would almost certainly discover new ways to circumvent the government’s measures. But the most glaring security problem with SOPA is the damage it would cause to DNSSEC, the new Internet system designed to limit certain crimes. This would jeopardize security across the Internet, potentially creating new challenges.

    “The federal government needs to protect intellectual property rights,” Gattuso concluded in his analysis. “But it should do so in a way that does not disrupt the growth of technology, does not weaken Internet security, respects free speech rights, and solves the problem of rogue sites.”

    The debate over SOPA is already among the most intense and polarizing taking place in Washington — and rightfully so. With concerns about free speech and Internet security taking center stage, lawmakers would be wise to look at alternatives when they return in January.

    Quick Hits:

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    44 Responses to Morning Bell: The Unintended Consequences of Internet Regulation

    1. Kupe says:

      Thanks for taking on this subject. SOPA and Protect IP put too much power into the hands of a few with no due process or established means of appeal. It's bad lawmaking by lawmakers overrun by corporations guided only by profit.

    2. bentonmarder says:

      If Washington's appetite for power is uncontrollable, then it must be destroyed. Otherwise, we are all to be reduced to serfdom. Either the Tree of Liberty is watered, or the Tree of Liberty perishes. It is a matter of sheer survival as free men and women.

    3. Frank says:

      Our liberties are under assault from Big Brother, and it has made no real difference which major political party is in power. With the exception of Reagan who wanted to shrink government, both Democrats & Republicans have grown the size & scope of government. The Constitution is trashed. Our freedoms taken away. Our nanny state headed for bankruptcy. Our US Dollar increasingly worthless (soon to be worth only the paper it's printed upon). I know 1 presidential candidate that wants to change that trend. But it might be too late to save the USA from self destruction anyways. America should never have tried to start an empire or turned away from the God of the Bible & the principles this once great nation was founded upon. We were never perfect, but for a while I think we were headed in the right direction. Not so now. We are definitely in decline & headed in the wrong direction.

      • Richard Wagener says:

        The Justice Dept has because the Dept of Injustice under Holder and His Boss Obama. I think all their power should be taken away by Congress as much as they can be restricted. We just need a complete house cleaning from top to bottom. I don't trust anything the Justice Dept. does until Eric Holder is out the door on his ear.

    4. Eileen Donohue says:

      First off there had to be complaints of infringement and repeated warnings by Youtube. So please do not put such a spin on your article making it "appear" that there was no wrong doing on the part of said channel. Second of all; if anything is in need of regulation it is the internet — have you any idea of how many people have been ruined by false reporting, bullying, etc? That channel was warned and warned again and still acted outside the agreed to terms of Youtube. Please stop this bad journalism and be real reporters instead of pretending to be reporters. Report the facts!

      • goodall says:

        We need the federal government to control the free flow of information to its citizens because…?
        You are a fool; no better than a willing victim.

      • Bobbie says:

        I agree with goodall. In a country where people are free, lets take America for example, people are able to think for themselves to protect themselves to defend themselves if need be. Free people become intuitive in decision making and what results from those decisions and choices where they are personally held accountable. How many people have been ruined by the truth? Government isn't needed, your personal mentality is. Please watch yourself and be observant in your surroundings and always remember whatever you share on line, you're sharing with the world. kinda simple without government costs to regulate, isn't it?

    5. Keith says:

      We need every person with access to the internet to bury their reps & senators in emails protesting SOPA. Use every outlet where they can blog, to post a message. It is time to remove all existing members of the House & Senate and replace them with local people, who are known in the area concerned. Get rid of those who have made goverment service a lifetime job to make themselves and their friends rich.

    6. Whicket Williams says:

      There have been laws passed recently that turns the U.S. into a police state Why didn't you scream about those?

    7. leelee41 says:

      What happened to due process and the theory of innocent until proven guilty?

    8. sam says:

      Their is no "Free Speech". Free speech is what's left over after a community has decided in advance what it does not want to hear.

    9. Keith says:

      Surely we all know what they will do in January. Simply nothing until the last week when it is supposed to be voted on. Then nobody will have read it. The republicans will initially vote against it. The emperor will say it must go through, so late on a Friday or Saturday night it will be passed in the hope that the public doesn't notice what they have done. Of course, if there has been an outcry against it, the media will act as if nothing has happened. Same ole, same ole!

    10. Thams Jefferson says:

      This is less a case of the law of unintended consequences than further proof,if any were need, that no one's liberty or property is safe when the legislature is in session. Freedom is lost incrementally, not in one fell swoop; but by the time the gate is closed it is too late to notice the walls that have been going up.

      IP rights exist in the first place to promote the growth of knowledge and scientific development (copyright and patent) and to protect the public from inferior goods (trademark), not to preserve private monopolies. Lawmakers and lobbyists should keep that in mind when tinkering with U. S. IP law, and citizens should remind their legislators of that very fact – early and often

    11. J E Houser says:

      The federal govt is sticking its nose (fist) in everything else so why should this be exempt? Remember the Constitution is NOT as written, but as read.

    12. Will R Clack says:

      Neither house of Congress (the legislative group not an assembly of Baboons) are competent to pass such a law. Too many lawyers! Lawyers are trained to find why their hirers have the right to by-pass any law.

      The "government" has a track record of doing too much, too little, too soon and/or too late to alleviate any problem.

      Let the market contol the problem.

    13. Oscar Manful says:

      I think the right balance has to be struck between piracy and individual freedoms and liberties.

    14. Bill Walter says:

      The people in the United States should not allow government control of any parts of the internet- it's the best engine going to reduce Washington's power, reinforce accountability, and promote economic activity.

    15. @Dakota_Mel says:

      In cases like this, the feds "quietly drop" the issue long after the damage to the innocent has been done. Case in point – did they ever give the property they seized from Gibson Guitars back? You don't even have to acknowledge the slippery slope this kind of power represents. The ability to use this power as a weaon against those who disagree with them is already evident.

    16. freedom says:

      Wouldn't it be refreshing to think that our government would be as diligent in stopping Chinese pirating of our websites?

    17. Babs says:

      I hope the Congress wakes up to the never ending grab fof "Human Rights" of their Consituency. It appears that Congress is doing nothing constructive TO STOP THE TAKEOVER!

    18. Mike Cooke says:

      We will always be burdened by politicians as opposed to statesmen as long as the politicians can keep their motives and actions hidden from the general public. In other words, as long as one person can mislead another, politicians can flourish unfettered by the truth or by facts.
      A free exchange of information such as is now largely available on the internet threatens the politicians freedom to mislead the general public. Washington will get control of the internet if we let them. Any thing that is good for the professional politician is not good for this country.
      The only way to protect ourselves from corruption in politics and fraud on the internet is by being informed!

    19. Bobbie says:

      when is this government going to step aside or be held accountable to their constitutional business without infringement to ours?

      candidates should publically advertise the contrast between constitutional and the unconstitutional governing we're forced to oblige along with the tax paid costs of each, separately…

    20. @bbgahman says:

      I was waiting for The Foundry to comment on SOPA and I'm very pleased with the insight and response! The unintended negative consequences of legislation were brought up in a conference this fall by Dr. Jay Richards. The language in these bills are so vague that the government would effectively be able to shut down anything it wanted to. I'm glad some people still believe in the Bill of Rights!

    21. Richard Torgerson says:

      This legislation would allow the government to shut down any website, including ones expressing political viewpoints, merely be suspecting that they might contain copyrighted material. It would be an easy way for a highly politically-oriented administration to shut off internet viewpoints from an opposing side, and this legislation would come along just in time for the 2012 election cycle.

    22. toledofan says:

      What is really pathetic in all of this is the mainstream medias complicity with this administration in hiding the real facts, about everything, and allowing the Democrats almost unabated free access to do whatever they want. It's sad that you only hear about these kinds of things from Heritage. Where is the outrage from the print media?

    23. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      Online piracy's a big business for criminals based in Russia, China, and other countries. We should make use of
      our treaties, and international law, to police the internet. In short, there doesn't have to be a new sheriff in town.
      There just has to be a sheriff in town.

    24. Jim Buzzell says:

      Social and economic engineering always creates unintended, or in the case of the RINOs, and Socialist, consequences.

    25. Paul G. Littlefield says:

      I'll add my voice to the "halt the government from destroying citizen rights and freedoms" promised by the constitution. Pity the poor soul who believes that "the constitution is NOT as written but as read." The constitution is written pretty plainly. The trouble enters in when someone (i.e. congress) insists on breaking it and then crying that their action is consistent with a "living" constitution. Business and individuals can't function, commiting large sums of money to an enterprise, if the rules can't be relied on to still be there.
      Stop SOPA and Protect IP!!!

    26. @JSWardell says:

      Thanks for the continous warnings!

    27. FlaJim says:

      This is a civil matter. There are already constitutional protections for copyrights and patents. That's plenty. Any of the alleged damaged parties can take this to civil court. We definitely don't need another layer of regulation. Look how helpful over regulation of the auto, light bulb, and energy industries has been.

    28. Dr. Henry Sinopoli says:

      These are not unintended consequences. They are the same consequences the Republicans pressed when they were in power and now, because we have a stated Socialist in the White House, Heritage attempts to make people believe the Democrats are any different.

      There are not two distinct parties. There are two names, but the same objective…take money from earners and give it to the entitlement class. The biggest entitlement class…Federal and State politicians.

      Heritage if you want to maintain credibility, start letting the public know there ain't much difference. And you support them…We both know you will not print this…too truthful.

    29. Basia says:

      Would anyone in their right mind even think of allowing an attorney general like the corrupt and hyper partisan Eric Holder to hold the strings of the internet? That would be the end of America as we know it and a full dicatorship would be established. We would be chanting Heil Holder, Heil Obama! Stop the madness of this nanny government now!

    30. 60srad says:

      This is yet one more example of how fascism works. The will of fictitious craporate "persons" trumps that of citizens, whether through the complicity of the government or a "laissez-faire" attitude resulting in "lousy fare," such as the proposal by the media oligopoly to do away with Net Neutrality and enforce their own anti-democratic will on those whose taxes have been privatized away into yet another sellout of a public asset to profiteering scamsters.

    31. Matt says:

      Sun Tzu taught 2500 years ago:

      "today's battles are information battles because information shapes both perception and opinion. Those who use information to both attack and defend will win, those who do not will lose."

      The strategic implications of DC power controlling the internet should not be lost on anyone. Our last and perhaps best chance to break the status quo in DC is through internet fund-raising and organizing for non-establishment candidates. Take that away and tell me how to fix a status quo controlled by those in power.

    32. Another Opinion says:

      I see this as a preparatory tactic to establish a means whereby it will be much easier for the left to destroy communications in support of conservative candidates in the upcoming elections. As the election draws near certain sites/organizations that support conservative candidates and causes are likely to find their web access has "disappeared" during the most critical time right before the election. It will "magically" begin to work normally soon after the election. An inquiry and investigation will be initiated but permanent damage will have been done. Any penalties or reprimands will be delayed for months or years in the courts thus nullifying the value of the legal action.

    33. Rick_in_VA says:

      Who says the consequences are unintended?

      Consider who we have running the country.

    34. Guest says:

      Where are the calls for more severe punishment for hackers who cause financial or physical damage? Putting up higher fences only makes it slightly more difficult. Permanently separating hackers from computers (for the rest of their lives) would make better deterrence.

    35. Jason says:

      It troubles me that people want their "constitutional" rights (Freedom of Speech, etc.) protected while they harp about every effort that is made by law enforcement or legislation to protect them. Instead of simply criticizing how about offering realistic and constructive suggestions, based on proven records and sound judgement (common sense), that can be successfully implemented. A good place to start is to consistantly support and enforce the constitutionally legitimate laws we have and see where that takes us.

    36. Why is the conservative congress so hell bent on regulating the internet when it comes to copyrights and so called intelectual property. If the so called conservative congress is so very concerned about excessive regulation of business than they ought to revamp the entire patent and tradmark system to make it harder for the holders of these patents and trademarke to sue for violations. Everybody pays for the legation one way or another. Many businesses are seriously harmed by having to defend themselves against lawsuits brought by all the holders of these unreasonable patents and trademarks. Consumers are forced to pay much higher prices for the patented and trademarked services and products than would otherwise be the case. I believe these guys are in the pockets of the crony capitalists. Senator Orrin Hatch is one of the worst culprits on this issue. If he had his way their would be no internet because just about everything anybody did on the internet would be a violation of someones copyright or someones intellectual property rights. I would like to say one other thing about Senator Orrin Hatch. Mr Hatch please don't kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

    37. Len Ygan says:

      Y'know, when you get right down to it this probably won't fly anyways.

      I mean, this isn't the first time the MPAA and the RIAA have pulled this stunt. Look back to when the first Mp3 players hit store shelves, and the birth of the DVD player. Hell look at the panic they threw when the VCR and Betamax were invented back in the 1970s.

      This is nothing new. They tried to kill those tools back then out of fear of piracy and lost revenue, then someone said "Wait guys, if we just do something like this…" and boom. Video rental stores, Video and DVD releases of movies, CD stores, iTunes, Netflix.

      It seems that big media is really just the poster child for really stupid ideas. SOPA and PIPA are just one more thing that, in the end, will make them look like idiots.

    38. Guest says:

      This is a clear example of the U.S. government trying to impose its power on the world and while we are citizens of this nation it’s terrifying how quickly and recklessly our Congress moves to protect powerful industries at the cost of the rights and privacy of the rest of its citizens and the rest of the world.

    39. I got what you intend, appreciate it for posting .Woh I am thankful to find this website through google. “Don’t be afraid of opposition. Remember, a kite rises against not with the wind.” by Hamilton Mabie.

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